92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012: 1:45 PM
Asthma and Air Quality in the Presence of Fires - a Foundation for Public Health Policy in Florida
Room 333 (New Orleans Convention Center )
William L. Crosson, USRA, Huntsville, AL; and M. Al-Hamdan, M. G. Estes Jr., S. M. Estes, J. C. Luvall, C. N. Sifford, and L. J. Young

Outdoor air quality and its associated impacts on respiratory problems in Florida are of public health significance. Air quality in Florida can be poor during the extended wildfire season, threatening persons with compromised respiratory systems each year. Studies have demonstrated that particulate matter, which is generally elevated in the vicinity of wildfires, is associated with increases in hospital admissions and occurrences of acute asthma exacerbations. However, few studies have examined the modifying effect of socio-demographic characteristics of cities or regional areas on the relationship between air quality and health outcomes.

In an ongoing university/multi-agency project, asthma hospital/emergency room (patient) data are being used to create a health outcome indicator of human response to environmental air quality. Environmental data are derived from satellite measurements, with special attention being given to the effect of wildfires and prescribed burns on air quality. This presentation will focus on the environmental data sets particulate matter, location of fires, smoke plumes that are being collected and processed for linkage with health data. After this linkage has been performed, space-time models of asthma rates as a function of air quality data and socio-demographic variables will be developed and validated. The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) will work with county health department staff and representatives from the medical community to establish a protocol with triggers for issuing public health advisories/alerts based on the developed and validated health outcome indicators. From this effort, a science-based policy for issuing public health advisories/alerts for asthma relating to air quality will be developed, giving FDOH the ability to (1) predict, with stated levels of uncertainty, case load of hospital admissions based on air quality, (2) reduce asthma exacerbations by forewarning asthmatics to limit outside activities on poor air quality days, (3) apply management practices on the rates of hospital/emergency room visits for asthma, and (4) provide information that would help translate interventions into policy decisions, thereby reducing the economic burden and increasing well being of asthmatics. Further, the results of the study will be incorporated into Florida's Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) program, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) EPHT network.

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